Hong Kong (dpa) - Desks were left empty on the Hong Kong stock exchange's trading floor on Friday, save for a few landline phones and old dot matrix printers, as it was shut down after 31 years of operation.
From the beginning of next week, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange will be entirely digitized, marking the end of an era for Asia’s third largest bourse.
Business done via floor trading had dropped hugely since the exchange introduced automated trading machines in 1993, according to Scott Sapp, vice president of corporate communications at Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited, which operates the exchange.
While Hong Kong is following the lead set by Singapore and Tokyo, former traders were still sad to see its end at a special closing ceremony on Friday.
"Floor trading is a very wonderful job because you can see so many people. [There were] over 1,000 in the hall," said retired trader Chan Pui Yan, who wore her old red trading vest with the number "2800" emblazoned on it in gold.
"Trading is so exciting. You cannot find another place like this."
Queenie Ng, who began working at the former Kan Ngan Stock Exchange in 1977, said: "I feel very said today...but nevermind it’s a new generation coming."
In 2000 floor trading accounted for over 20 per cent of trades, but it had dropped to just 0.2 per cent by October 2014. The trading hall was also reduced in size following a mid 2000s renovation and will now be used for exhibitions.
After terminals were made available outside the exchange, fewer and fewer traders rented desks on the trading floor, with their number dropping from 1,400 at the peak to around 30 by 2017, said Christopher Cheung, founder of Christfund Securities and a member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council.
His firm was one of the few trading on the floor until the end.
"I kept the booth until the last minute because it helps to maintain relationships with fellow traders," Cheung said via email, adding that he also "wanted to show my support to the industry as well."
The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited is the sixth largest in the world and has been in operation since 1986, following the merger of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the Far East Exchange, the Kowloon Stock Exchange and the Kan Ngan Stock Exchange.